Recommendations for return to school

Recommendations Made to the School Committee for return to school
Posted on 10/15/2020
back to school on chalkboard First, we want to say thank you for your commitment and partnership as we navigate these times of new protocols and health regulations. We know that this year has required even more from everyone in our system, and we are grateful for the patience and dedication you have shown in supporting your students. 

We continue to listen, reflect, and plan how to better serve students while maintaining our high standards of safety. Last night, we presented our recommendation to the school committee to return to our original reopening plan, with a few adjustments:

PreK, Kindergarten, First and Second Grade: We will invite all students in grades PreK to second grade back for in-person learning five days a week, and any family has the option to remain in fully remote learning.  The in-person school day will be slightly shorter. We will announce the daily schedule information next week.  We are working with our after school partners to provide extended day options.

Sixth Grade at Collins: For our students who have newly transitioned to Collins Middle School, we will offer a hybrid in-person model, where students can attend two days per week in-person with three days per week remote.

If you would like your child to attend in-person, they will be assigned to either attend on Monday & Tuesday or on Thursday & Friday. We are hoping to make those assignments by Friday, October 23rd.

If your child is already in-person at Collins five days per week, they will remain at five days, and will get in-person instruction for two of those days while doing their remote learning at Collins the other three days.  We will still offer a fully remote option for sixth graders.

Decision on Third Grade Next Week: In order to maintain our health and safety standards, including smaller class sizes and six feet of physical distance, it takes more educators to teach each grade level. We want to confirm that we will be able to offer high quality in-person learning for any student who chooses it, which means that we are waiting until next week to decide whether we can invite third grade to join us in-person as well. 

For the majority of our students, we will continue with the same learning model we have today:
Fourth and Fifth Grade: Students will continue with remote learning, and those who are in-person in hub labs will continue. 
Seventh and Eighth Grade: Students will continue with remote learning, and those who are in-person in hub labs will continue. 

High School: We are exploring options to meet the needs of our high school students, and will return including the possibility of bringing our 9th graders back in a hybrid model. This will include a plan for CVTE students, and some expanded in-person supports. We will update you with more information next week.

All Remote Students: A remote option will continue to be available for all students

We want to share with you our thinking for why we have recommended this plan, as a few key takeaways drive this recommendation: We continue to prioritize having our youngest students in-person first because we know that (1) remote learning is the hardest to access for our youngest students who are still building their ability to use technology, to read, to write, and the basics of math and (2) the risk of spreading the virus is proving to continue to be the lowest for our youngest students. 

We know that this is still hard for our fourth and fifth graders, and maybe our third graders if we cannot have them in-person. We will be working with our families, communities, and city partners to identify safe ways to create the social interactions our upper elementary students need.

We know that the longer we are in this difficult situation, the harder it is getting to be isolated, and we will find ways, like Hub Connects, to continue to improve these options for upper elementary. 

We know that transition grades are hard. For our sixth graders at Collins Middle School, the disruption last spring means that many students arrived at Collins for the first time during Hub Connects, or have never been. We need to help support building relationships with teachers and learning how to navigate middle school. The staffing model at Collins also enables more check-ins with teachers on remote days in the hybrid model, as we know the hardest part of hybrid in many cases is needing to work very independently on the days that students are not in-person.  We will also be able to keep students in small cohorts in sixth grade, with teachers rotating. This is the best approach for managing COVID risk and has worked well in surrounding districts.  

Next week, after the School Committee presentation, we will post more specific information for each school and grade level to better understand what this will mean for your child in November. We do want to emphasize that this is the next step for our system this fall, and things may continue to change. All of this work is dependent on our community COVID-19 data, and we genuinely do want to hear your feedback on what’s working and what’s not so that we can continue to improve.

We want to stress that this is a recommendation and there are likely to be shifts in the next two weeks. We will continue to update you. Please reach out to salemreturns@salemk12.org if you want to connect. 

Thank you again for everything you are doing to support your students. Your partnership is more important than ever as we all navigate these unprecedented times. 

With gratitude,
Dr. Steve Zrike
Superintendent

View the presentation to the School Committee
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